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Whether one is producing music, podcasts, game sounds, or film sound effects, Digital Audio Principles provides the tips and techniques that will make the project a success. Author Dave Schroeder explains the basics of digital audio production techniques and covers the essential hardware and software. He also discusses sound theory, frequency response, the range of human hearing, and dynamic range.
So we're back in Pro Tools, and we're looking at a couple of MIDI tracks. So let's just zoom in, and you'll notice right away we're not looking at waveforms now; we are looking at more or less little points on a graph. And you can see that we have the notes of the scale represented on the left, and then again, it's time. It's our timeline. So let's go ahead and zoom in and just take a look at what these look like up close. I will zoom them up a little bit, and you can see that there are little dots on the grid; they correspond to different notes on the grid.
Let's zoom back out. And I have the drum track in here that I have gone ahead and drawn in. So I am going to go ahead and play it back and just let you see what's happening. (drums playing) So that's a MIDI drum track, and what it's doing is it's actually--there is no sound here. It's playing back. It's sending information. What we're looking at represents information. It's saying, play this note and play it for this long at this point in time, and where that information is going right now is to another device, in this case a virtual instrument which has a bunch of sound samples in it, and it receives that information and plays back what we are asking it to, based on what we load.
In the next movie, we will talk about virtual instruments a little bit more, so I don't want to get into them too much right now. Let's focus on what you can do with MIDI once you have it in the software world. One of the things about recorded MIDI data, or tracks of MIDI, is that it's very easy to manipulate in a lot of different ways. So let's move in and just drag and move a couple things around. I will show you what I mean. So in this drum track I have a kick drum that's assigned to this note and a snare drum and then some shakers up here, some tambourine. So I can click on that, and you can hear it when I click.
It will preview, and I can drag it to a different tambourine sound. (drums playing) There are some snares. (drums playing) So I can pick what sounds I want. So those are all sounds in my sampler in my virtual instrument. As I change what note they are assigned to, we get a different sound; same goes for the snare. (drums playing) So, that's what you can do in terms of moving it up and down the scale and which note it's assigned to.
We can also adjust the length of these notes. So if I don't want it to be as long-- Now in this case, where we have drums, the length isn't going to be a big deal. Although I think maybe with our kick drum we might be able to get a sense of it. (drum playing) Yeah, that's kind of a nice long beat. So if we go in and shorten up that file, now I am telling it, hey, play this sample but only for this long. Let's see if that's long enough, (drums playing) Let's shorten it more, so it's just a real snap. (drums playing) So as you can see, we can extend the duration of the different notes really pretty easily.
We can also delete or add notes really pretty easily as well. We can highlight a note and hit the old Delete button, and it's a goner. Or I can bring that back via Undo. Or I can go ahead and draw in new notes. I think on this drum track I am going to listen back. I want to add in a little something new and kind of cool. I am going to change. I am going to pick my grid there. Okay, 16th notes. (drums playing) Yeah, I am going to put a couple of things in here. Yeah, that's what I want to use. Let's check this out.
(drums playing) Yeah, this is contemporary stuff. Don't be surprised if you hear this on the radio next time you are out in California. (drums playing) So we can draw MIDI notes in. Really cool. And then if I don't like those, we can maybe change that sound again. (drums playing) Cool! The other thing we can do is change the velocity of notes, and to do that I have to pick a different view here, say, let me show me the velocity information. But I can go in, and right now, this represents the velocity of the all the notes on this MIDI track.
I can actually pick a note and then change the velocity. I can drag it down or add more velocity. Now velocity is the attack, or how hard or how loud the sound is, to simplify it. That allows us to change the dynamics of the track we're working. And so if we don't want all of the snare hits to be of the same volume, I can go ahead and make some a little quieter and some a little louder. Usually I like to make that first accent snare a little softer and make that hit that's on the beat a little heavier. So let's go ahead and make that kind of adjustment.
I'll make this one really quiet for demonstration purposes. So I am changing the velocity. (drums playing) So you get that ta-dum. So that's playing with the velocity. This is really cool, and this is a really cool feature. And you'll see that when we record in a few tracks that it's nice to be able to record in some MIDI, but then the fact that you can manipulate it in so many different ways allows you to perform it but then fine-tune your performance.
But sometimes you don't need to perform at all; you can just build the track from the scratch and draw it in. I just used the Pencil tool to lay out this drumbeat, and that's why it's such an excellent drumbeat, because I made it with a pencil. But there's a lot of potential, and you can have a lot of fun with MIDI. The other thing you can do with MIDI is a thing called quantize, and basically that's the idea of shifting notes so that they make sense in a grid, or in a certain pattern. So let's take a listen. I have got some notes that I know I didn't put in so well, and we are going to quantize those and try and fix them, or get them where I want them in relationship to kind of the tempo and the beat.
(drums playing) Yeah, I kind of choked there. Let's take it back a little further, so you can hear it, and I will zoom in too. Yeah, we can see them. (drums playing) So let's go in and try to fix that. Let's take a good look, and we simply look at two of these at once. So I am going to go in and highlight all those notes. It looks like I have got some real issues here with my 16th notes up here and where my kicks are landing.
So I am going to go ahead and work with the MIDI, and do something called quantize. Here it is: Grid/Groove Quantize. And in here I can pick the increments I want to quantize to, or more or less the grid I want my notes to pay attention to and to shift to. So if we just pay attention to these notes and look at that mess, and I am going to hit the Apply button, and it will quantize them, and you'll see what happens. Suddenly it looks like they're a little bit more in line. So let's take a listen.
(drums playing) Yes, definitely better. Now quantize isn't the sure thing; you have to really pay attention to how you apply it. Sometimes it has to make a decision about this note that's off. Sometimes it might shift it over here when you apply it, but another time it might decide it's this one based on how close it is, or where it thinks you meant to put it. So you can't just hit the magic button and then assume you have gold. It's always important to listen back and make sure that when you quantized it, it got the effect you wanted.
Now that sort of quantizing sets everything right to the Grid perfectly. There's another thing called Groove Quantizing, which deals with offsetting notes slightly so they are not in such a perfect mechanical order, which is one of the things you will hear when people talk about MIDI. It's easy to make things very perfect and lay things out perfectly on the timeline against the grid, but a lot of times we know that music has imperfections, or musicians have different emphasis on different notes, and it's not all about the perfect 'right- on-the-money' music all the time. So a lot of times you'll find people criticize MIDI or people who use MIDI because they make things a little too perfect and there's not as much feeling in there or whatever.
So they've come up with something called Groove Quantize, and this is available in lots of different programs. And basically it's the idea of trying to humanize, or add some feel, to the quantizing process so it's not so perfect. And it will allow you to choose from different feels like ahead of the beat, behind the beat, swinging it a little bit, et cetera. So that's out there. And if you get a work with quantizing, I definitely encourage you to check that out, because adding the human feel to your MIDI is definitely something worth pursuing. In the meantime, I am going to go ahead and actually fix this, because I can.
(drums playing) All right, so quantize is one more thing we can do with MIDI. Now, it's important to know that we're working here with a drum track, but actually we can use this. This is just information, and we can use it to trigger any sounds we want. So actually I have an organ track down here that hopefully you won't find too offensive but I think is kind groovy, just to show that we can assign different voices to this MIDI information and play back all sorts of different voices.
Check it out! (music playing) That's some good stuff, and I know it's going to be big. But it's not quite done yet, because I got to put some more tracks on here. I need some handclaps in there if this is going to be a true educational video piece of music, which I have a special affinity for. So we are going to add a little big of handclap here, and we are actually going to take a look at recording MIDI, which will be exciting.
So in this session I have already added my claps track, because I knew I had to have them. Now I am going to go ahead and arm the track for recording. We will zoom out a little bit, so we get a better view, and I am going to go ahead and see if I've got my claps sound. Remember, when we were showing you the setups, right now I am going to be pushing some keys on the keyboard controller to trigger the clap sound. (clap sounds) Oh yeah, I have got them. So I am going to try and record some new claps for this hot track. Here we go. Just like recording audio, record arm, hit the button, hit Play, and we will see a little bit of recording in process.
(music playing) That was pretty awful, but look, there are my claps. (music playing) Oh yeah, that one is good.
Well, I like these two, so I am just going to ahead and copy those two and duplicate them, and that's why I play it more than once. (music playing) You can see that my quantizing effort has actually failed. I must have highlighted the wrong thing there. So that's it. That's recording MIDI, and that's working with MIDI in the software. So there is a quick look at recording MIDI.
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